NEW ORLEANS — In his 27 years in and around the NBA, New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has seen just about everything, but after Monday night’s 99-91 short-handed victory over the New York Knicks at the Smoothie King Center, he’s starting to wonder if the voodoo stories French Quarter tour guides love to regale visitors with are really true.
No one can blame Gentry. Jrue Holiday scored 10 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter to spark the injury-ravaged Pelicans to the comeback victory — the first of the season for the Pelicans when they have scored fewer than 100 points.
But then with the victory pretty much sealed, Holiday, who had missed the previous two games with a bad toe, took an inadvertent elbow to the right eye in the final minute from Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis and had to leave the game with a nasty cut. Holiday looked like a fighter who had gone 15 rounds and will being checked for a possible orbital fracture.
With guard Alonzo Gee having already exited the game a few minutes earlier with a pulled right quad, Holiday’s injury left the Pelicans with just eight semi-healthy players — and just two guards — to finish the game.
“I’m going to send out an all-points bulletin to anybody in the French Quarter or anywhere else — we need a voodoo doctor,” Gentry said, laughing through the pain of a litany of injured players. “We’ve got to find the bones under this place. We’ve got to do something because this is becoming comical. It’s frightening, because we needed to add another ball-handler in the game and I looked down the bench and we had (centers) Omer (Asik), Perk (Kendrick Perkins) and Alexis (Ajinca) there.”
Not exactly the best ball-handlers.
“I don’t know what more we can do,” Gentry said with a chuckle. “We now have over 100 points a game sitting out, so if we score seven the next game, just understand that.”
The Pelicans (27-46) were officially eliminated from the playoff race in the Western Conference. They were an NBA-worst 0-33 entering the game when failing to break the 100-point mark.
Gentry laughed again when asked about failing to make the playoffs.
“Oh, yeah, we’re shocked, that we’re out of the playoffs,” Gentry said, smiling. “We thought we had one more run in us, especially with all the guys we have healthy now. We have more people in our team picture than the (New Orleans) Saints did. I will say this. I like the way the guys are playing hard and competing. Sometimes talent becomes an issue, but we still give it everything we got.”
Holiday’s final basket, a 17-foot jumper, gave New Orleans a 92-85 lead with 1:19 left, climaxing an 8-0 run. Holiday took an elbow to the face from Porzingis on an inbounds play with 56 seconds left and did not return.
The Knicks (30-45) were paced by Carmelo Anthony’s 22 points, but they scored just 37 points in the second half on 13 of 44 shooting (29.5 percent). Even worse was their 10-point third quarter, in which they made just 3 of 21 (14.3 percent) and surrendered a 54-49 halftime lead.
“We start off the third quarter and we’re not getting organized, we’re not moving the basketball, we’re not making hard cuts, we’re not getting any penetration,” said Knicks coach Kurt Rambis. “Melo’s having to take a lot of outside shots because he’s getting the ball and he got to force up a shot, which is unfair to him.”
New Orleans led 84-77 with 5:05 left, but the Knicks regained the lead, 85-84, with eight consecutive points, six coming on a pair of 3-pointers by Jose Calderon.
Holiday then took over, sparking a 6-0 run by stealing a cross-court pass by Anthony and turning it into a pair of free throws. Holiday followed that up with a driving layup past Lopez, and New Orleans led 90-85 with 1:59 left.
Toney Douglas added 16 points for New Orleans, including six free throws in the final 41 seconds.
Even crazier than the Pelicans’ injuries was a sequence that had nothing to do with basketball with 51 seconds left. The clock was stopped and the Pelicans were preparing to take two foul shots. A young boy walked down from the stands, through security and onto the court, where he asked Anthony to pose for a picture.
Anthony patted the boy on his head, took the picture, and the boy walked back to his seat. The family was not ejected.
“That’s never happened,” Anthony said. “That was the first time. Very surprised. He was a little kid. I was shocked. I really didn’t know who it was until I looked down.”
“It honestly startled me,” Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham said. “I stepped up to clean my shoes. I was ready to lock in on Carmelo, and all of a sudden I kicked something and I looked down and there was a little kid, and I said, ‘Is that your kid?’ It was cool, though.”
NOTES: Pelicans PG Jrue Holiday, who missed the previous two games with a sore small toe on his left foot, returned to the starting lineup. “He’s going to give it a go tonight just to see,” said New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry. “It’s just that nagging thing. It’s on the foot that he usually does most of the cutting and stuff.” … G Norris Cole (lower back) may not play the rest of the season. “I think you have to be smart in that situation,” Gentry said. … Knicks coach Kurt Rambis said being eliminated from playoff contention will not affect his approach to the final eight games. “Nothing changes in my mind,” Rambis said. “We’re still looking at this, trying to win ball games, trying to play better together, trying to improve as individuals. I want them to have that mindset that we’re going to go out and try to win every ball game.”